When I first heard of HypnoBirthing® (the Mongan Method), I was pregnant with my first child and eager to have a natural birth. I found a podcast on birthing methods and listened to the founder of HynoBirthing, Marie Mongan, talk about its philosophy and techniques, and the calm, gentle, and sometimes pain-free birthing experiences of HypnoBirthing mothers. I was instantly hooked and quickly signed up for a class. I loved every minute of the 12-hour series… it was a full education on all things birth and the HypnoBirthing techniques (relaxation, breathing, visualization, affirmations, and self-hypnosis) allowed me and my husband to feel fully equipped to handle the intensity of birth and to ultimately have two gentle, amazing births— the first at a hospital and the second at home.
As a birthing mother, I know first-hand the value of HypnoBirthing but it was not until I became an experienced doula that I fully appreciated the extend of its value. As a doula, I have supported a variety of births— home, hospital, natural, epidural, induction, cesarean, long, short, painful, and pain-free— and, anecdotally, the trend I have witnessed is quite something: the women who have the foundation of HypnoBirthing tend to have quicker, smoother, and, in general, easier births; while the women who have not done HypnoBirthing— who seek natural birth and have hired me to support them as their doula— tend to struggle to find their way through the intensity of birth and often end up with interventions, such as epidural, Pitocin, or even Cesarean, that they had really hoped to avoid.
So, this begs the question: what is it about HypnoBirthing that is just so powerful?
While the self-hypnosis and breathing techniques can be very effective, I think the power of HypnoBirthing to influence birthing comes down to the way in which a woman learns to approach the birthing process. So much of HypnoBirthing is about empowering women to understand and trust their body and the natural, perfectly designed function of birth… thereby reducing and eliminating fear.
If a birthing woman holds fear about birth— even subconsciously— and resists the opening, thinning, and expansion that her body is seeking with “No, no, no”, then she is going to struggle through the birthing process. I have seen this many times as a doula, with women looking me deep in the eye and saying (and really believing) “I can’t do this”. As their doula, I do my best to convince them otherwise— because I know that they absolutely can do it— but these are often the women that end up with long, slow, painful births that are usually peppered with a variety of medical interventions.
When it comes to birth, a woman’s state of mind is of the greatest importance. Think of our mammalian counterparts in nature: if a wild, birthing animal is scared— perhaps she perceives a nearby threat— she is going to shut her birth down. We are no different— if we are scared in birth, we release fear-hormones— adrenalin and catecholamines, which inhibit the flow of oxytocin (the hormone responsible for labor) and endorphins (our body’s natural pain-inhibitor… 200 times more effective than morphine!). It’s no wonder, then, that a woman in labor who is scared and resistant to what her body is trying to do is likely to have a challenging, difficult birth.
On the contrary, imagine a woman who believes that her body is perfectly designed for birth, who trusts her body and her baby, and who welcomes the process of birth— even the intense and sometimes painful parts— with “Yes, yes, yes”. This is the typical HypnoBirthing woman. She is able to work with her body and baby, rather than against it, allowing the oxytocin and endorphins to flow, her body to thin and open, and her baby to move down smoothly and easily, without resistance.
I really do think, for most women, it is as simple as that: to learn to approach birth with a calm, confident trust rather than a deep-rooted fear and resistance (which, by the way, is what our culture has deeply imposed upon us— think of the most recent portrayal of birth you’ve seen in the movies or on TV).
HypnoBirthing is so much more than just teaching women to establish a positive mindset about birth— all of the techniques are powerful and quite effective— but they all work toward the same goal: empowering women (and their partners) to approach birth with a sense of calm, trust, and confidence, and to realize that the strength for birth comes from within us and that the more we can trust in the natural process of birth and surrender to it, the more strength we will have.
Birth is one of the greatest rites of passage we will ever experience— it is deeply sacred and powerful— doesn’t it make sense, then, to anticipate it with excitement and joy, and to seek to experience it fully, with all of our senses, and to surrender to its power rather than to resist it in fear?
My hope for all of my clients—and for every woman, for that matter— is that they learn to trust their bodies, to surrender to the beauty and intensity of birth (even though it is hard and sometimes painful), and to embrace the full experience of birthing, knowing that if they do, they will access a strength, knowledge, and force greater than anything they’ve ever known before.
Some women can do all of this without the preparation of HypnoBirthing, but many cannot, for this mindset unfortunately goes against mainstream culture… so, if you’re pregnant, seeking a natural, smooth birthing, find a HypnoBirthing class! As a doula, I am quite close to having the HypnoBirthing class series be a prerequisite to working with me… I believe it’s that important.
Ellie Lindenmayer is the owner of Joyful Birthing and offers HypnoBirthing Childbirth Education Classes to the Boston area, North Shore, and seacoast New Hampshire.